Review: Minus The Bear – Lost Loves

Seattle stalwarts Minus The Bear have been at the forefront of the math rock scene since 2001, combining singalong choruses with head-scratching time signatures and guitar athletics, usually all within the space of a single song. This latest release compiles together an album’s worth of songs that didn’t fit onto their previous three records Planet Of Ice, Omni and Infinity Overhead. An inspired take on the unreleased and rare theme, it certainly delivers the goods, bringing together a range of sonic flavours from riff-rock to electronica via the prog-influenced song structures that have united the band’s output over the years.

Opener ‘Electric Rainbow’ first appeared on the bonus disc accompanying the first editions of 2007 full-length Planet Of Ice and, in this reviewer’s opinion, is an example of the definitive Minus The Bear song. For anyone unfamiliar with the band, it is the perfect introduction, featuring dextrous guitar tapping, some righteous fuzz bass, typically elusive lyrics, and a deliciously singable chorus. It is one of many occasions on this record that make you wonder how such a good song didn’t make the cut for a full album release. Follow up track ‘Surf-N-Turf’ has a funky pop groove that is as radio friendly as 6/4 polyrhythms can get, whilst ‘Broken China’ is a guitar-driven rocker with a enough whammy pedal action to give even Tom Morello foot ache!

Halfway through the record the cracks begin to show, as a couple of the weaker songs reveal why they may have been best left to stew in the cutting room a little longer. ‘Patiently Waiting’ has the potential to be a dreamy atmospheric song that would sit nicely on Planet Of Ice with its smooth Pink Floyd-esque guitar and shimmering keyboard chords, yet the drum machine heavy production and unnecessary faux-reggae middle eight leave it sounding more like an off-cut from Kanye West’s 808’s And Heartbreak. It’s not necessarily bad – in fact there’s a really nice song buried beneath the production – but it lacks context here. In fact, that is the record’s only real weakness. Although the diversity makes for a fantastic snapshot of a band who have proudly gone their own way for more than a decade, it lacks the narrative and cohesive sonic template that usually ties together their albums so well. However, it must be said that this is more a criticism of the b-sides and rarities format in general rather than Lost Loves in specific.

Fortunately, things more than pick up towards the end with closing track ‘The Lucky Ones’, which was originally produced for most recent studio album Infinity Overhead, as it combines searing synth leads with head-nodding staccato riffs and melodic vocals, ending with dramatic closing chords and layered reverse guitar loops. Intelligent yet catchy, it is the perfect closer to a retrospective of a unique band.

Overall this collection cements Minus The Bear’s single-minded individuality over the past thirteen years, from uncompromising technicality to danceable pop hooks and everything in between. Tall Ships, This Town Needs Guns, and any other band who thought ‘hey, maybe we could add an extra beat in here’, pay attention. This band made you.

4 out of 5 high fives!

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